Author: Sandhya Basu
“I am not gifted. When I read, the words twist
twirl across the page.
When they settle, it is too late.
The class has already moved on.”
– Jacqueline Woodson
X is a motivated student in class 3. However, most of his teachers are worried about his academics because of his difficulties in reading. His parents took it casually the first time when his teachers complained, thinking that their son will learn to read eventually since he also had trouble learning to speak in his early years. However, after long months, X, his teachers, and his parents are aware and concerned about his reading issues. X takes a lot of time to sound out those words. As a result of which he is unable to understand what he reads. This incident made him feel sad and low in self-confidence to go to school.
The above example illustrates a student with a specific learning disorder. Even though in the above example, we see that the student develops a decreased sense of self-esteem and confidence, this is not a necessary behavioral pattern among all children with learning difficulties. Hence, this blog aims to provide an understanding of learning disorders to its readers to make them equipped with increased compassion and love while dealing with children having severe learning difficulties.
What are Specific Learning Disorders?
Many children may find their initial years of schooling challenging. Occasionally, they have a hard time with some concepts or skills taught to them in school. However, in cases where they give their 100 percent but still struggle with their course-work, it could be an indication of a learning disorder. Learning disorder indicates that a child has difficulties in one or more domains of learning, with a negligible effect on overall intelligence or motivation. Individuals with learning disabilities have average or above-average intelligence levels.
However, in some cases, a considerable gap between the individuals’ potential and their actual achievement is observed because of their learning issues. Hence, learning disabilities are sometimes referred to as hidden disabilities. The label ‘hidden disabilities’ implies that an affected individual can be seen as perfectly normal (as per the societal standards) but may not show the required skill set, which is expected in a similar chronological age. For example, a ten-year-old may show perfect drawing skills but may have severe difficulties in reading compared to other children of that particular age group.
What are the symptoms of Learning Disorder?
The symptoms of a Learning Disorder include difficulties in learning and using academic skills, despite the interventions used to ease such challenges. The symptoms mainly include problems in reading, understanding what is being read, the effortful sounding of words, difficulties with spelling, grammatical errors, challenges in mathematical ability, like calculations, logical reasoning, and applying mathematical concepts, etc.
It is important to note that not all children having these symptoms have learning disorders. Children should be taken under-diagnosis only when these symptoms continue for six months despite continuous techniques to rectify them. Also, such symptoms can cause interference with the academics and daily functioning of the child for the given age.
What are the types of Learning Disorders?
Here are different types of Learning Disorders:
|What are the types?||What Does it Mean?|
|Dyslexia||Disability based on language wherein an individual has issues understanding written words. It is also called as a reading disability or a reading disorder|
|Dyscalculia||Disability involving mathematics wherein an individual has issues with understanding and solving mathematical problems|
|Writing disability wherein an individual has issues with forming letters or writing within a designated space|
Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders
Problems in sensory organs wherein an individual is unable to understand language despite normal hearing and vision
|Nonverbal Learning Disabilities||Neurological disorder originating in the right hemisphere of the brain wherein an affected individual may have difficulties in understanding directions, problem-solving capabilities, making decisions, etc.|
Disability affecting an individual’s motor skills, thus impairing movement and coordination. An affected individual may have issues holding a pen or a spoon, or even tying his or her shoelaces.
Difficulties in saying the right words to explain something or communicate with people verbally. It involves issues with skills regarding verbal language such as the ability to re-narrate a story or the fluency in the speech, etc.
What causes Learning Disorder?
Specific learning disorder occurs due to a complex interplay between genes, environmental and epigenetic (non-genetic) factors. As a result of which, the brain’s ability to efficiently process information is reduced. The onset of learning disorders usually happens in the early school years of children when they face challenges to read, spell, write, and perform mathematics. However, the severity of a specific learning disorder may increase if the child has existing issues like language delays, difficulties in counting, or problems with fine motor skills (for writing, or tying shoelaces).
How do we treat Learning Disorder?
Even though the specific learning disorder is a lifelong issue, the treatment depends on the following factors: a) severity levels of the disorder, b) grasping abilities of the affected child, c) available support system (caregivers, health care providers, etc), d) prescribed medications (if needed), or e) the presence of any other co-morbid disorders like autism or ADHD along with learning disorder. If a child is moderately affected by learning disability, she or he can avail the special education services to alleviate the learning difficulties. Special education refers to the process of educating children while taking care of their individual differences and requirements. Ideally, it involves carefully planned and monitored teaching procedures and materials for those who have exceptional needs and are mostly unable to cope with the regular schools. For example, special education may involve a psychologist using a technique of reading which may help the reading skills of a child suffering from dyslexia. Sometimes, such services are also simultaneously used with regular schooling. Children affected by learning disorders usually require additional help from their caregivers. Also, an evaluation by a clinical psychologist is needed if the child shows extreme behavioral and emotional reactions along with learning disabilities. However, in mild to moderate cases, children just need a little extra effort in school to combat their learning challenges.
What measures do we need to follow with an affected individual?
The following table tells us the do’s and don’ts of engaging with a child affected by a specific learning disorder.
|Help them overcome their difficulties through love, positive reinforcement, assurance and compassion, along with the professional help when needed.||Do not dismiss your child’s issues saying that they are ‘slow learners’, ‘not working hard enough’ or that they are ‘academically weak’, since putting such labels on our children makes them more vulnerable.|
|Encourage your child to participate in reading habits, inter-class competitions, and ask for assistance whenever she or he faces difficulties to enable fluent communication.||Do not be very harsh or indulge in extreme punishments as it reduces their self-esteem and confidence, and as a result of this, they withdraw themselves from their social circles.|
In essence, parents, health care providers, schools, and caregivers need to work together to help the child grow to his or her fullest potential. Just a little bit of compassion, love, and acceptance can do the magic!
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